A Poor Wise Man HTML version
Acting on Willy Cameron's suggestion, Dan Boyd retained his membership in the
union and frequented the meetings. He learned various things, that the strike
vote had been padded, for instance, and that the Radicals had taken advantage
of the absence of some of the conservative leaders to secure such support as
they had received. He found the better class of workmen dissatisfied and
unhappy. Some of them, men who loved their tools, had resented the order to put
them down where they were and walk out, and this resentment, childish as it
seemed, was an expression of their general dissatisfaction with the autocracy
they had themselves built up.
Finally Dan's persistent attendance and meek acquiescence, added to his war
record, brought him reward. He was elected member of a conference to take to
the Central Labor Council the suggestion for a general strike. It was arranged
that the delegates take the floor one after the other, and hold it for as long as
possible. Then they were to ask the President of the Council to put the question.
The arguments were carefully prepared. The general strike was to be urged as
the one salvation of the labor movement. It would prove the solidarity of labor.
And, at the Council meeting a few days later, the rank and file were impressed by
the arguments. Dan, gnawing his nails and listening, watched anxiously. The
idea was favorably received, and the delegates went back to their local unions, to
urge, coerce and threaten.
Not once, during the meeting, had there been any suggestion of violence, but
violence was in the air, nevertheless. The quantity of revolutionary literature
increased greatly during the following ten days, and now it was no longer furtively
distributed. It was sold or given away at all meetings; it flooded the various
headquarters with its skillful compound of lies and truth. The leaders notified of
the situation, pretended that it was harmless raving, a natural and safe outlet for
Dan gathered up an armful of it and took it home. On a Sunday following, there
was a mass meeting at the Colosseum, and a business agent of one of the
unions made an impassioned speech. He recited old and new grievances, said
that the government had failed to live up to its promises, that the government
boards were always unjust to the workers, and ended with a statement of the
steel makers' profits. Dan turned impatiently to a man beside him.
"Why doesn't he say how much of that profit the government gets?" he